Equinet Newsbook - October 2016

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Equinet Annual General Meeting 2016

Annual General Meeting: The General Assembly of Equinet members met in Brussels on 29-30 September for the 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM), bringing together heads and senior management representatives from Equinet member equality bodies, as well as external representatives for some sessions.

The AGM saw the unanimous ratification of a new membership application from Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Workplan for 2017. A particular focus was given to the development of standards for equality bodies, as well as the use of EEA and Norway grants by equality bodies. Read more...

Launch of the European Directory of Equality Bodies

Members Directory:  The European Directory of Equality Bodies, launched at our 2016 AGM, is a new database which brings together up-to-date profiles of our member equality bodies with comparable search options on their mandates, functions and accountability.

The European Directory of Equality Bodies aims to:

  • Showcase the work of our members.
  • Gather comparable, up-to-date information on equality bodies across Europe.
  • Facilitate interest and research in the work and set-up of equality bodies.

Upcoming Equinet Seminar
Fighting Discrimination on Grounds of Race and Ethnic Origin

9-10 November 2016
Hosted by: Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Budapest

Race & Ethnic Origin: Discrimination on the basis of one’s race and ethnic origin remains one of the most often experienced forms of inequality and one that features prominently in the work of equality bodies. In many European countries racial and ethnic minorities, and in particular Roma people, remain the most disadvantaged and persecuted group in society.

This capacity buidling seminar for our members will look at the key legal issues and challenges, and the available tools and good practices in tackling discrimination on the ground of race and ethnic origin. Read more...

Upcoming Equinet Conference
Diverse, Inclusive and Equal: Innovating at the Intersections of Gender Equality

7 December 2016
Hosted by: Belgian Institute for the Equality of Women and Men, Brussels
Registration open until 21 November

Intersectionality: Tackling intersectional discrimination and ensuring an approach to promoting equality that takes account of multiple identities is a pervasive challenge both for European non-discrimination law, and for equality bodies seeking to protect groups in the most vulnerable positions.

This conference welcomes participants active in the field of equality to discuss the challenges in promoting an intersectional approach to equality and in litigating intersectional discrimination. Read more...

Members News

Belgium: Insurers are not allowed to discriminate against transgender people

Gender Identity: Madam X. was born male and underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1997. Since then she has gone through life as a woman without any problems, until she wanted to take out hospitalisation insurance. The insurance company only wanted to agree to taking out an insurance policy with her if there was a specific exclusion in the policy that related to her trans identity. The judge in the first instance ruled that this condition discriminates against transgender people. The Belgian Institute for the Equality of Women and Men went to court with the victim, and states that "insurers aren’t allowed to use general exclusions, linked to the sex reassignment of a transgender person. This is a form of discrimination based on sex.” Read more...

Northern Ireland Court of Appeal finds discrimination in Lee vs. Ashers Baking Limited

Sexual Identity / Services Providers:
The court of appeal in Belfast upheld a previous judgment last year that Ashers Bakery had discriminated against a customer on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Court of Appeal found that Ashers Baking Company had directly discriminated against Gareth Lee on grounds of sexual orientation by refusing to make a cake supporting same sex marriage.  It further found that the relevant legislation is not incompatible with Articles 9, 10 or 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, who helped Gareth Lee bring the case to court, welcomes the judgement given. This case raised issues of public importance regarding the extent to which suppliers of goods and services can refuse service on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief and political opinion.  Read more...

Poland: Need for adequate resources and complete independence for equality body

Standards for equality bodies: On 7 October, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued recommendations concerning Poland. They relate to areas such as equal treatment, terms of employment, unemployment, social security, domestic violence and childcare. The document contains several dozen opinions and recommendations, including raising their concern about the insufficient resources allocated to the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Poland to effectively fulfil its obligations (art. 2). The Committee recommends that the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights be provided with the necessary human and technical resources to fully and effectively fulfil its mandate, especially with respect to economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee further recommends that the independence of this Office in ensured. Read more...

Equinet meets with Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

Membership Engagement: Equinet Chair Evelyn Collins and Executive Director Anne Gaspard met with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Chief Commissioner Emily Logan and her team while in Dublin on 17 October.

This was an excellent opportunity to hear about the recent developments within the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), following the merger of the Human Rights Commission and Equality Authority in November 2014. Read more...

Guaranteeing Fundamental Rights Effectively

Fundamental Rights: In this joint article written following a meeting in Paris on 20 September, the French Defender of Rights, Jacques Toubon and Director of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Michael O’Flaherty, express their disquiet about the state of human rights in the EU and offer suggestions to improve the situation in particular areas of concern. Read more...

Slovak National Centre for Human Rights published Annual Report

Annual Report: The Slovak National Centre for Human Rights has published its report on the observance of human rights including the observance of the principle of equal treatment in the Slovak Republic for the year 2015 (in English). Read more...

EU News

European Journalism Award on Diversity 2016

Journalism for Diversity: The European Commission announced the winners of the European Journalist Awards on Diversity at the historical General Post Office in Dublin on Monday, 17th October. This Award recognises excellent journalism that promotes diversity and raises awareness of discrimination in the EU. The winning articles came from Croatia, Germany and Spain. Read more...

European Parliament resolution on creating labour market conditions favourable for work-life balance 

Work-life Balance: In their resolution, the European Parliament calls on Member States to strengthen the role, capacities and independence of the equality bodies, including Equinet, inter alia through the provision of adequate funding. The work of equality bodies is regularly refered to and supported as regards supporting work-life balance and fighting discrimination in employment. They also call for the implementation of the Equal Treatment Directive.  Read more...

UN Special Rapporteur underlines importance of mandate, independence and effectiveness of equality bodies

Standards for Equality Bodies:
The Report by the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mutuma Ruteere, discusses the important role played by national specialized bodies and national plans of action in preventing and combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. 

Numerous references are made to Equinet material throughout the report and it makes many references to our members. In their conclusions and recommendations, references are made to the importance of the mandates, independence and effectiveness of equality bodies. Read more...

New ECRI Reports on Racism in Armenia, Turkey and the UK

Race & Ethnic Origin: 
has shown determination in fighting racism and intolerance, integrating refugees and supporting ethnic minorities. However, numerous legislation gaps, rise in hate speech and violence, and institutional shortcomings remain of concern Recommendations include giving more powers to the Human Rights Defender to enable him/her to deal with discrimination in the private sector.

As regards Turkey, ECRI welcomes the establishment of the Ombudsman Institution in 2013 and of the Human Rights and Equality Authority in 2016, but expresses concern over the lack of independence of the Human Rights and Equality Authority and the recently established Law Enforcement Oversight Commission. 

As for the UK, ECRI welcomed the entry into force of the Equality Act 2010 and the generally strong legislation against racism and racial discrimination in the country, as well as the government’s new hate crime action plan and substantial efforts to promote LGBT rights in the UK. At the same time,  intolerant political discourse, particularly focusing on immigration, has been noted. Hate speech continues to be a serious problem in tabloid newspapers, and online hate speech targeting Muslims in particular has soared.
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Equinet is co-funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union (2014-2020).